Skip to page content

With some published editions referring to it as a “prelude,” the opening movement of the Toccata and Fugue in F, BWV 540, commences abruptly like a perpetual-motion etude with endless and even exhausting 16th-note activity, interrupted only occasionally by chordal passages and syncopation. Akin to such unrelenting and hypnotic organ music, long solo pedal passages favor more the organist’s technique with deft stomping than fluid use of heel and toe. After all these ideas are introduced, a grandiose development serves as the main substance of the work.

As its more subdued counterpart, the fugue is put together with a subject of slow and deliberate whole and half notes as if they were rudimentary building blocks. The chorale-like result quickly morphs into a steady texture of running eighth notes, challenging the listener’s ability to detect the fugue subject.